Born in Ikirun, Osun State, 96-year-old Mrs. Kosenatu Abimbowo says she has enjoyed every bit of her life and no longer fears death. She tells us about herself.
How was growing up like in those days?
I was born on July 15, 1916 in Ikirun, Osun State. It was a long time ago and most of the things we now have in the world did not exist during my childhood.
There were schools then but they were few and I never attended any of them. I had friends who attended schools at that time and I appreciate their knowledge but I was gifted in many ways. Although, missing formal education created a big gap between my world and others who attended school, I made up for it in many ways. God has blessed me with good memory and ability to succeed in everything I do.
How did you know your date of birth since you did not go to school?
I was born at a certain time of the year and with that landmark, I cannot forget my date of birth. Moreover, my parents told me.
How do you cope with the changes around you brought by civilisation and education?
I follow events and listen to the changes. I am flexible so I moved along with my environment; missing nothing and accepting what should be accepted in the new world.
What are the social activities you enjoyed when you were much younger?
I enjoyed telling stories; I’m a good story teller. Back then, I would gather children on the streets, sit them down and tell them stories.
You have lived for almost a century which is rare. Do you miss anything from the old world?
I missed the social aspect but old age does not demand any of it now. We are conquerors of the old time and winners in the new age.
What about you brothers and sisters?
I came from a polygamous family so counting the number of children in the family was not important. I think I had 10 siblings but I am not sure, I lost count a long time ago because we were so many in my family.
Do you know where your siblings are now?
Ah! I doubt if they are still living. I was told sometimes ago that I am the only surviving child of my parents.
Since you did not go to school, what did you spend your youth doing before you got married?
I learned trading from my parents and relatives. Cocoa business was booming in those days. It brought lots of money but you need patience, perseverance and focus. If you were not determined, you would fail in cocoa business. As the farmers tended to the crop, those dealing in the business of exporting it were patient also.
How successful were you as a trader?
I made big money and reinvested it in the business. I can say that I was a wealthy business woman at that time. Apart from cocoa, I was also dealing in kolanut and palm kernel. I started the business at a young age so by the time I became a woman, I was already rich because I did not waste my profit. But things changed and cocoa business no longer brought the financial satisfaction because there were no more farmers planting the crop so I retired 30 years ago and moved to Lagos. People now want fast money but cocoa does not guarantee that. I was closing in on my 70th birthday when I quit the business. You can say old age also contributed but the truth is that cocoa business suffered in Nigeria and many traders had no choice but to move to other businesses, although some were not lucky because they lost their savings and life investment to the misfortunes of the cocoa business in Nigeria.
You said you were rich early in life. Can you quantify that in today’s term?
That will be difficult because I retired 30 years ago.
But I bought property without tasking my husband for support and I supported him when he needed my assistance. We were able to train our children to the university level and gave them good things of life when they were young.
How many children do you have and where are they?
I had three children, but one died. The first born is in Osun State now, he is a big farmer. My other child, who is a politician, is in Lagos.
What would you attribute your longevity to?
I will put God’s favour first, then my family. There is great joy in seeing your children multiply. When I see my great grand children, my joy knows no bound. That keeps me healthy and alive.
At my age, I do everything for myself. I do not allow anyone to wash my clothes and even the plates I use. I am always involved in house chores. When I wake up in the morning, I sweep the house without feeling any pain. I go to the garden regularly to tend to the vegetables and do the weeding. Being idle was something I hated since my childhood days and I still have my disgust for lazy people. I make myself active all day long so I remain a strong woman despite my age. I am gradually living into a century but it’s a gift that God has given my family.
What do you do before going to bed?
Since I moved to Lagos, I don’t sleep without watching the 10 o’clock news. I need to know what is going on in the country. Then after the news, I will watch one or two movies or wrestling. I enjoy watching wrestling.
What is your favourite food?
I really don’t have a favourite food but I’m very mindful of what I eat. Although in the morning, I like taking hot pap, it makes my day bright and makes me healthy.
You must have set some goals for yourself as a young woman. How will you rate the attainment of those objectives?
As a young woman, it was my target to be financially comfortable and be rich early in my life. I did not want to lack the good things of life and I thank God that more than 70 years after, I can count myself among those who are able to achieve their life goals. I am indeed a fulfilled woman. If I die today, I will die a happy woman. I have had a wonderful life, I don’t regret a thing in life. In my family, I am one of the most successful children.
Can you describe yourself in three words?
I am hard working, caring and compassionate. Hard work is the only way to avoid poverty. It does not kill.
What do you feel about women who are house wives?
I don’t like the idea. A woman should be independent, but her independence should not make her disrespect her husband or her marriage. She must be able to contribute to the running of her home and the only way to do that is for her to earn an income from a decent job because there is love in sharing. It is a fact that every man wants a woman that will not be a burden on him.
Where is your husband now?
He died 10 years ago. He was a successful man who was rich also. But there were times he would need assistance and I helped out.
How will you describe children of nowadays?
What are the negative traits that you notice in the children of today?
There are so many things that the children of today are taking for granted. They also go away with many unpleasant attitudes. They get distracted by material things too easily and they don’t put value on respect. Obedience and respect go together but children no longer pay attention to little values that add quality to their existence. It did not happen in my days.
Would you say that you were beautiful in your youthful days?
Of course I was a beautiful woman endowed with good things.
Do you have any proof of that?
Men flocked around me in those days. Some found ways of establishing friendship with me while others sent friends and relatives to me just to be my friends. But I was a busy young woman who did not notice the existence of those men or their motives. My social life was conservative and dating men never crossed my mind. This was partly because I was living with an uncle who was very strict, he didn’t allow me to go out of the house without his permission.
Did you come up with a plan to escape from his grip once in a while?
No, I didn’t know how to do it. My friends used to do it, but I was too scared to try.
So when men insisted on being your friends, how did you create time to listen to them?
But how did you then meet your husband?
I cannot really explain it but my uncle played a big role in our relationship. He actually introduced my husband to me in Osun State and I later developed the likeness and love needed to sustain the relationship. I so much loved him but death took him away from me. After his death, I felt a part of me going away forever.
Do you still keep friends?
All my friends are dead.
Have you ever explored the world outside Nigeria?
I have not had the opportunity to visit other countries. But each time I watch those places in the television, I notice how beautiful they are and wish I had had the chance to visit in those days. But I still hope to travel and see those beautiful countries one day.
Your son is a politician. Did you support his choice?
I don’t like politics because I think it’s a dirty game. When I got to know that my son is into politics, I fell ill. I cried to God to help me protect him. Politics is a very dangerous field, they kill people a lot. I don’t want my son to die and that is why I am begging him to leave politics.
What challenges have you faced in life?
Well, I encountered more of emotional challenges. I always wanted to have many children, but I couldn’t. I also wanted to have a girl. Then another traumatic experience I had was when my twin brother died. I don’t think I’ve gotten over his death. Whenever I buy things for myself, I buy for him as well and keep somewhere. I also have a carved image of him that I keep with me. I’ve told my children that when I die, the carved image should be buried with me.
What is your advice to young couples?
I will warn husbands most especially not to go into polygamy. When you marry a second wife, you compound your problem in life. One man, one wife is the best marital policy. I can’t understand why a man will want to marry more than one wife.
Women should learn to take care of their husbands. They should understand their husband’s body language, what he likes and what he doesn’t like. This will reduce arguments and bring peace to the family. Young couples should avoid quarrelling, especially in the public. They can sort out their differences without shouting or fighting.
What do you think of mother-in-law living with her son who is married?
Most women don’t like living with their mother-in-law. But without the mother, the husband would not have come to this world. Wives should learn to love their mother-in-laws in order to have peace in their homes. If you keep fighting your mother-in-law, it will affect your relationship with your husband.
You have seen it all. But is there anything that can make you cry?
I’m a very emotional person. If anyone dies around me, I still shed tears for the loss.